exploring england

an englishman's appreciation of home
journey profile

Where: North, South, East & West of England. United Kingdom, Europe.
When: From Birth to the Present
Highlights: Royal Pavilion at Brighton, White Cliffs at Seaford, Southend & Brighton Piers, Stonehenge in Wiltshire, Liver Building in Liverpool, River Thames in London, Bull Ring Centre in Birmingham, Roman Baths at Bath, Royal Crescent in Bath, Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford, Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, Millennium Dome & Canary Wharf in London, Tyneside Bridges in Newcastle, White Horses in Wiltshire, Severn Bridge in Bristol, Slate Houses in the Lake District, Traditional Thatched Cottages of the South West, Victorian Terraced Housing in Bradford, Roman Baths at Bath, The Minster at York, Clifton Suspension Bridge at Bristol.


I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green and pleasant land.

...goes the famous refrain of William Blake's hymn Jerusalem - perhaps the most rousing lyrics concerned with England's spirit - lyrics which would make the hairs of even the most ardent of atheists and most strident of internationalists stand on end (listen here). Aside from the dreadful dirge that is God Save the Queen, Blake's Jerusalem is the unofficial, and true, anthem of England.

Sometimes people are so busy looking for adventure overseas that they fail to give what is in their own metaphorical English backyard the most cursory of glances. Paradoxically, it is only when you have been abroad and sampled some of the more soulless of places out there that you begin to appreciate the heritage that England, and the wider British Isles, has and how readily we take what we have here for granted. Generalising significantly for the sake of brevity, part of the English national character is to humbly downplay, to talk dismissively, to undervalue. It would be so frightfully uncouth for one to boast aloud, wouldn't it?

International travel has made me more aware of the number of countries which lack history: there are a lot of new countries out there earnestly manufacturing a past and a national character. In Iceland there are no regional accents - everyone pronounces words the same. In Doha, the Qatari capital, the city has been built from scratch in the last twenty years and buildings in the 'old' souk area have been deliberately distressed to make them appear old as the country struggles to establish a history and national identity. In Australia, the oldest building you're ever likely to see on a day to day basis herald from the Victorian era. All of this has left me re-examining England through a new appreciative prism.

It was the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 where, finally, England, as part of the United Kingdom, celebrated its history and achievements with reverence and gusto so unlike our humble, self-effacing culture (watch the opening ceremony here). Some commentators in the international media thought we were boastful and arrogant. A commentator in Greece decried the ‚Äúsense of exaggerated British national pride". This negativity, however, belies a country whose heritage and achievements I appreciate more so than ever before. As goes the maxim 'If you've got it, flaunt it'. Travel has metaphorically taken me away from England - but then brought me closer to it. I suppose that's exactly the way it should be, shouldn't it?

So here, by way of a celebratory summary of England's green and pleasant land, is a compilation of photographs from all points of my English travel compass, photographs which I feel help capture a sense of the character, and heritage, of England. 

Update: In March 2016 I emigrated to Sydney, Australia. Check out my Australia Blog which charts the highs and lows of my move Down Under.


The fantastical blend of Oriental and Gothic styles in the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Southern England.


Nothing says England quite like the iconic chalk White Cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters, which look out across the English Channel at Seaford Head. Southern England.


Stonehenge's iconic sarsans. Wiltshire. South West England.


The unrivalled glory of the River Thames at night with its Millennium Bridge (of 'wobbliness' fame), The London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. London is, without doubt, the most beautiful city in the world. South East England.


The view of London out towards the east and Canary Wharf as seen from London's newest building - The Shard. Foregrounded is the GLA Armadillo building and Tower Bridge. I love the way the Thames meanders into the distance in this shot. South East England.


The extraordinary fascia of the Bull Ring Centre in Birmingham. The Midlands.


The Millennium Dome foregrounding a spectacular Canary Wharf as seen from the new Thames cable car. South East England.


The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben clock tower in the City of Westminster. South East England.


The Tyne's many bridges stack themselves silhouette fashion. North East England.


The Royal Crescent at Bath. South West England.


The ancient Roman Baths at Bath. South West England.

York Minster. Northern England.


The rolling hills of the Wiltshire countryside, complete with a famous Wiltshire White Horse. There are seven of these in and around Wiltshire, maintained with chalk by a small group of ardent White Horse enthusiasts. South West England.


A typical English country cottage in Somerset. South West England.


Hiking to the top of Stoodley Pike in the West Yorkshire Dales. Northern England.


A more English scene you will not see: Buxton rooftops, Derbyshire. East Midlands.


Beach-side scenes from the Humber Bridge in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire. Northern England.


Terraced houses and a chimney are the relics of the Industrial Revolution in Bradford. Northern England.


The huge telescope of Jodrell Bank in an autumnal Cheshire angles toward the sky. North West England.


Slate homes seen from the window of Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in the Lake District. North West England.


The Severn Bridge connecting England and Wales on a chilly New Year's Day. South West England.


The iconic Liver Building along the banks of the River Mersey foregrounded by the new Beatles bronze. North West England.


Inevitably any discussion about the English national character is likely to cite the seaside being, as Great Britain is, a country surrounded by water. This is the world's longest pleasure pier at Southend-on-Sea. South East England.


This is Brighton Pier which, with its instantly recognisable illuminated sign, helps to capture a sense of the glamour and refinement of the turn-of-the-century seaside. Southern England.


The dramatic Clifton Suspension Bridge and heritage buildings in Bristol. South West England.


No page about England would be complete without a photograph of Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon. The Midlands.



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